Landscape photography in Patagonia: An interview with Linde Waidhofer

E-mail Print
  Lago Chelenko at sunset. Photo: Linde WaidhoferLago Chelenko at sunset. Photo: Linde Waidhofer
By Patrick Nixon
Linde Waidhofer is a renowned and widely published landscape photographer. On her website, she says that in her nature photography she “searches for the photographic equivalent of the emotional impact of wild and mysterious landscapes.” And Linde says she finds this “in the secret geometry and design beneath the surface of the natural world, in images of simplicity and abstraction.”
Based in Crestone, in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, Waidhofer spends at least six months a year on the road photographing and exploring new landscapes, especially in Patagonia, where she has had a home for more than a decade in Chile’s Aysen region.  She has published nine books of landscape photography, including multiple books about Patagonia: Unknown Patagonia; The Carretera Austral, South America's Most Spectacular Highway; and Chelenko, the Thousand and One Faces of a Patagonian Lake; plus, two small monograph-format books, one on the marble caverns of Patagonia, Blue Light, and another on the Northern Patagonian Ice Field, Going to the Light.
As part of a special series of interviews with some of the panel of judges for the 2023 Patagonia Photo Contest, Patagon Journal recently interviewed Linde.
Iceberg at Lago Grey, Torres del Paine. Photo: Linde WaidhoferIceberg at Lago Grey, Torres del Paine. Photo: Linde Waidhofer
You have been photographing Patagonia for many years and published five photographic books on the region. What have been some of your most memorable moments?
One of my unforgettable top experiences photographing this wild corner of the world was an early morning flight, with pilot Rodrigo Noriega, over the Northern Ice Field. Taking off before dawn from Valle Chacabuco, in the heart of what is now Patagonia National Park. We flew west over shadowy valleys and dark peaks to reach a wide and sunlit world of ice and more ice, stretching to the Pacific ocean. A world without people or any sign of people. This two-hour flight was a non-stop photographic adventure. And the photos I made that morning became one of my favorite books, Going to the Light.
You did a lot of photography for Douglas Tompkins and his conservation projects in Patagonia. What was it like to work with Tompkins on photography projects? What kind of photos did he look for?
Working with Doug was special in several different ways. I was always impressed, and motivated by his intensity and commitment to each project we worked on together: the Patagonia without Dams campaign and book, and another book on the Carretera Austral. But the most exciting part of my collaboration with Doug was the opportunity to fly with him, in his own light plane, over so much of Patagonia. This aerial overview gave me a whole new perspective of Patagonia’s landscape and the way its iconic elements, glaciers, peaks, lakes and rivers, and vast forests all relate to each other. This gave me a unified view of Doug’s conservation mission, and challenged me to capture a bigger picture of Patagonia.
Northern Patagonian Ice Field. Photo: Linde WaidhoferNorthern Patagonian Ice Field. Photo: Linde Waidhofer
Lenticular cloud above Monte San Valentín, Aysen. Photo: Linde WaidhoferLenticular cloud above Monte San Valentín, Aysen. Photo: Linde Waidhofer
What tips do you have for doing photography in Patagonia? Any special camera gear or lenses that you recommend, for example? 
The best camera—in Patagonia, or anywhere—is the one you have with you. For that reason, even an iPhone camera can allow you to capture an unforgettable scene. But I think the crux is to avoid getting stuck, or locked in to one way of photographing the landscape. If you find yourself shooting too many wide-angle scenics, reach for your longest lens and start looking for closeups.  Or vice versa. There is no one right way to photograph Patagonia. But our ever-evolving digital tools allow us to take photos in situations that were formerly impossible. One example is blending multiple exposures into large and accurate panoramas, which is a wonderful way to capture the immense skyscapes above Patagonia.
Name some of the challenges of doing landscape photography, and why do you enjoy it so much?
One of the most important challenges in landscape photography is just getting yourself outdoors, even when the conditions aren’t perfect. Stormy and rainy weather, for example. Many of my very best autumn color photos were taken in the rain. Landscape photography is like a treasure hunt. If you believe there is a treasure out there, you will find it. Each successful landscape photo is a happy and welcome surprise.
Palena. Photo: Linde WaidhoferPalena. Photo: Linde Waidhofer
Chaiten volcano in eruption. Photo: Linde WaidhoferChaiten volcano in eruption. Photo: Linde Waidhofer
On your website, you write that you seek the “photographic equivalent of the emotional impact of wild and mysterious landscapes.” How are you able to identify and translate that emotion into your images?
I pay attention to what attracts me the most in a natural scene. A photograph is more than just a record of what is in front of the camera, it is more a record of what you, the photographer, are thinking, and looking at. There is a saying: Look and you’ll see. Think about what you are really, really looking at, and why. That’s where the emotion comes from.
What will be determinate for you when deciding the winning photos of the 2023 Patagonia Photo Contest? What for you is the difference between a great photo and a good photo, for example.
I will be looking for a fresh image, or images, something I’ve never seen before. The question about the difference between a merely good photo and a great one, is subtle and a hard question to answer. Great photos stand the test of time, they are still exciting to look at years later. They can’t always be planned, sometimes they just happen.
What projects are you working on right now, and what projects do you hope to take on in the future?
I love creating books, photo books that collect and present related groups of photos, that tell a more complex and complete story than any single photo can. My current projects include two new photo books, both about the amazing skies, clouds, light and weather above Patagonia, one in color, the other black and white, but next year, who knows?

Subscribe Today!

Featured Listings in Directory